AP: Rounds 19 to 22 Zhuhai preview

Driver and Rookie Cup titles go down to the wire in China. Five drivers are in contention to take the 2007 Formula BMW Asia Driver title this weekend at the Zhuhai International Circuit in Southern China, while no fewer than seven, including all...

Driver and Rookie Cup titles go down to the wire in China.

Five drivers are in contention to take the 2007 Formula BMW Asia Driver title this weekend at the Zhuhai International Circuit in Southern China, while no fewer than seven, including all the Formula BMW Asia Junior drivers, will fight it out for Rookie Cup championship honours. The 4.3km track will be the venue for the final four races of the 22-round 2007 season.

With a top potential tally of 184 points to be had in the four remaining races of the season in both the Driver and Rookie Cup championships, the smallest error this weekend could spell disaster for any of the 10 drivers from nine countries and territories chasing titles.

Topping the Driver Classification leaderboard going to Zhuhai is Malaysian teenager Jazeman Jaafar (CIMB Team Qi-Meritus) whose impressive eight wins and 14 podium finishes have given him a 66 point lead over Zahir Ali of Indonesia (20/Team TARADTM) in his debut year. Jazeman's arch rival and team mate James Grunwell (19/THA), a Formula BMW Asia Junior last season, is still in the running for the title as are two current Juniors: Hong Kong's Ross Jamison (17/CIMB Team Qi-Meritus) tops the Rookie Cup points and is mathematically still in the running for the Driver title, as is South African Kyle Mitchell (16/Eurasia Motorsport).

Never has the effectiveness of the Formula BMW Education and Coaching (E&C) Programme been more evident than this season, with all five Junior drivers in the top six Rookie Cup standings.

A DNF in the last round in Shanghai put a dent in Jamison's points lead, reducing it to just 37 from Mitchell. Indian racer and Junior Akhil Khushlani (18/Eurasia Motorsport) is still in the running as is the series' first ever North American racer Sean McDonagh (18/Team E-Rain). Two more Juniors, Shohei Shiromoto of Japan (17/Team E-Rain) and China's David Zhu (17/CIMB Team Qi-Meritus) will both have their work cut out if they are to wrest the title from the points leaders, but are nevertheless in with a chance. Team Holzer PFX racer Johan Adzmi of Malaysia (17) is also in the running, making it arguably the most close-run title in the series' history.

Scholarship evaluations to find the next crop of Formula BMW Asia Juniors, each of whom will be awarded a 50,000 Euro (approximately 70,000 USD) cash contribution to their season and a full year in the unrivalled E&C Programme free of charge, will be held between December 13 and 16 at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit. Entries are now open to anyone aged between 16 and 21, and can be made through Formula BMW Asia Series Manager Matthijs Hoitink at Matthijs.Hoitink@partner.formulabmw.com.

Although not in the running for championship honours, two drivers in particular will nevertheless be guaranteed to add to what will be a thrilling season finale.

Thailand's Jack Lemvard (21/CIMB Team Qi-Meritus) joined the series in September and immediately made his mark on his single seater racing debut with a win and a podium finish at the Chengdu circuit. He followed up with a second podium finish in Shanghai, and can be expected to be right on the pace this weekend.

Fresh from his victory in Shanghai earlier this month, Formula BMW USA regular Sebastian Saavedra of Colombia will take on the Zhuhai track for the first time.

The 17-year-old gave Macau team Ao's Racing its maiden Formula BMW Asia victory having joined the series for its closing rounds as preparation for the Formula BMW World Final, scheduled for 22nd -- 25th November at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. The high point of the season for the four international Formula BMW series, the event will see the world wide leading Formula BMW drivers battling it out for overall victory -- and a prize which would be the dream of every up-and-coming young racing driver: a Formula One test with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.

Ao's Racing will field an additional two drivers for the season final: Omer Younas of Pakistan, and newcomer 16-year-old Tom Gladdis of Britain from the Formula BMW UK Championship.

-credit: asia/bmw.com

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Sebastian Saavedra , Jazeman Jaafar , Zahir Ali , Ross Jamison , Kyle Mitchell , Shohei Shiromoto , Sean McDonagh , James Grunwell , David Zhu , Johan Adzmi , Tom Gladdis , Jack Lemvard , Omer Younas
Teams Sauber